LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can all exercise early-termination options in the summer of 2014, which would make them unrestricted free agents. Financially, it makes perfect sense for all three to pursue that option, as each could secure (at least) two additional years and roughly $40 million more on their contracts.
When they originally joined forces in 2010, each player left a significant amount of money on the table. Instead of opting for the maximum six-year deal ($123,658,089), Bosh and James signed for $109,837,500 while Wade took $107,565,000, according to Basketball Reference.
The financial flexibility provided by all three stars allowed the Heat to fill out their roster with solid complementary players, such as Mike Miller back in 2010. With the NBA's latest collective bargaining agreement's restrictions on luxury tax-paying teams, however, the Big Three's sacrifice still wasn't enough to spare Miller from the amnesty clause during the 2013 offseason. (The move shaved roughly $17 million off the Heat's luxury tax bill, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.)
Miami will stop at nothing to re-sign James, who's been the catalyst for the team's back-to-back championship runs in 2012 and 2013. However, the CBA effectively makes it incredibly difficult for teams to have three max- or near-max-level players on the roster at one time.
Assuming all three players do opt out, it could ultimately force the Heat to decide between re-signing Bosh or Wade. That could lead to a feeding frenzy in the free agent market, as both Bosh and Wade could land a four-year max contract from a team with the requisite cap space.
Each player comes with his own concerns. Wade's value could be diminished by questions about the health of his knees, while Bosh's paltry rebounding totals from the past few seasons could make a team uneasy about building around him in the frontcourt.
Yet, despite those issues, both Wade and Bosh remain among the NBA's top 25 players. Particularly for teams devoid of any superstar presence, either player would be "manna from heaven," to steal a line from former Minnesota Timberwolves general manager David Kahn.
Given the financial room, a good team fit and championship-contention status in mind, six teams stand out among the rest in the chase for Bosh and/or Wade.
Let's take a look at them.
Note: All salary cap data courtesy of ShamSports.com.